Friday, July 21, 2017

The World's End

The World's End; comedy / science-fiction, UK / USA, 2013; D: Edgar Wright, S: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan

Gary King, an unemployed alcoholic in his 40s, rallies all his high school friends - Andy, Pete, Oliver, Steven - to travel from London back to their childhood town, Newton Haven, and have one final round of beers across all of the 12 pubs, including the last one they initially missed out, "The World's End". They also meet Gary ex-sweetheart, Sam. However, Gary and the gang soon find out all the inhabitants were replaced with blue-blooded humanoid robots and thus have to spend the night dodging them while running from pub to pub. Finally, at "The World's End", Gary and Andy find the secret underground hideout to the "Network", an alien intelligence that has been replacing people with robots in order to enlighten and advance the human civilization, so that it won't be the most backward in the entire galaxy. However, Andy and Gary refuse this offer and thus the "Network" abandons the plan and pulls out all of its technology with it that was shared with Earth. The Earth is thus left without technology, and people have to start all over again.

Edgar Wright's final film in his semi-trilogy of sorts, which included "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", "The World's End" is a peculiar, daft achievement that starts out as your 'run-of-the-mill' nostalgia flick about middle aged friends trying to recapture the magic from their youth, only to make a dazzling turn some 38 minutes into the film in order to become an unpredictable science-fiction parody about alien invasion, an amalgamation of "The Stepford Wives" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Leaving the rather overloaded (and unnecessary) 5-minute opening prologue with the protagonists as teenagers, "End" works rather smoothly, encapsulating small traits and features of the mentality of people in a small town, whereas the main actor Simon Pegg has a field day playing the leading character Gary King. Some of the best bits in the opening act arrive through comical dialogues between him and his reluctant friend Andy ("We are going back to Newton Haven!" - "Newton Haven is a black hole." - "That's because we are not there!") and such comical spirit that is not afraid to be wacky can be found even in the second half of the film: for instance, when one robot manages to assemble itself back again, putting legs instead of his arms, and attacks Sam, Gary shouts: "Get your feet off her!"

Some of this does work, though some does not, since some parts are not that much inspired, which leaves some scenes just ending up looking weird. Likewise, the ending is somehow strangely incomplete, among others because it abandoned Gary's story arc: what did he learn in the end? What did he achieve? What difference did it make? Basically none, and this seems slightly lacking. Still, Wright shows a sixth sense for pure comedy in a finale that is irresistibly hilarious and contagiously fun, with the likes of analytical humor not seen since the verbal duel between the astronaut and the bomb in "Dark Star" or Ray and Zuul in "Ghostbusters": when the two protagonists find out the hideout of the alien "Network", which explains that it is only trying to advance the human civilization, the most backward one is the galaxy, Andy starts objecting to its motivation ("Whoa whoa whoa! Who put you in charge? Who are you to criticize anyone? Now, you might think Gary is a bit of a cock and he is a bit of a cock, but he is my cock!") while Gary verbally outright insults it ("Intergalactic asshole!"; "Go back to Legoland!"), and they both defend the human right to be flawed ("We are more belligerent, stubborn and idiotic than you can imagine!").

Grade;++

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Saint Seiya (Arc 5-6)

Saint Seiya; animated fantasy action series, Japan, 1987-1988; D: Kozo Morishita, S: Tohru Furuya, Ryo Horikawa, Hirotaka Suzuki, Keiko Han, Hideyuki Hori

In Japan, the Bronze Knights - Seiya, Shun, Shiryu and Hyoga - find out the Sanctuary, located in Greece, is run by a fake Pope who became corrupt and disloyal to Athena's rule. The Pope even wanted to kill Athena when she was a baby, but she was saved by Aioros, who was stigmatized by the Pope who called him a "rebel". Athena and the Bronze Knights thus arrive to the Sanctuary to topple the fake Pope. Athena is wounded by an arrow and thus the Knights have only 12 hours to go through 12 temples which represent the 12 constellations leading to the Pope's temple, who can only save Athena - but each temple is guarded by a Golden Knight. The Bronze Knights thus battle each Golden Knight in each of the 12 temples. Finally, Seiya reaches the fake Pope, who is actually usurper Gemini Saga hiding behind a mask. Seiya uses a shield to reflect a ray that heals Athena. She then goes to the top temple and kills Saga.

Even arcs 5-6 of the famed 80s anime "Saint Seiya" divided the opinions: some consider them an epic, monumental and immense saga, while others find them a tiresome, bland, overlong and dry set of endless, repetitive fights. Unfortunately, arcs 5-6 also lean more towards the latter, exhausting themselves in too many fights that all seem so the same they become monotonous after some 20 episodes. Unlike the previous arcs, which were all over the place, the storyline here finally aligned into a clear point since the story here is articulate and clear — Seiya and his Bronze Knights have to pass through 12 temples and fight 12 Golden Knights in less than 12 hours in order to save a wounded Athena — but, sadly, it all quickly gets stuck into the same old formula which is repeated ad nauseam: the protagonist encounters his opponent; he tells the protagonist how powerful he is; his kicks or lasers cause the protagonist to fall down; the protagonist is at his low-point, near death, but then remembers the power of friendship, stands up and defeats the opponent. Next temple. Cue this formula to be repeated for the whole 12 temples, from episode 42 to episode 71. And the sad thing is: if the viewers were to skip 29 episodes, and just jump from episode 42 to episode 71, they would not miss a thing. This just proves how superfluous and unnecessary all these 12 temple fights are, and what an empty walk they are.

Also, it is never established why the Bronze Knights would feel such loyalty to each other since their friendship is never established: they are humorless, one-dimensional warriors, and almost never experience something in private to bond. They do what they are told to, not what they feel what is right naturally. One such example is when a young Shun is "training" on Andromeda island in episode 69 by being chained between two rocks, while the sea level is slowly drowning him: why would anyone feel loyal to such misguided trainers and their methods? However, one has to admit there is some anticipation, some spark in episodes 39-41, when Seiya is sitting with a girl at a dock in Japan at night, preparing to go to Greece to fight the bad guy, whereas some of the locations in the Sanctuary are exciting, especially the Ionic pillars and the stairs, evoking the magic and historic legacy of the Ancient Greece, and some shots are opulent (episode 68, when Seiya and Shun are near the top of the hill at night, while the temple is illuminated above them; episode 72, when Mu is standing near a temple, but its background turns into a transparent view of stars in space behind him). An additional plus point is the usurper, the fake Pope in the Sanctuary, whose philosophy about power and justice resembles the one from Blaise Pascal ("Strength is of only importance. If justice is defeated, it will be remembered as evil."). "Saint Seiya" arc 5-6 is basically a 10 hour 'Wrestlemania': it is fun at first, but after so many hours, it becomes boring and lifeless — while one longs for a broader, more versatile spectrum of a viewing experience.

Grade;+

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Leviathan

Leviathan; science-fiction horror, USA / Italy, 1989; D: George P. Cosmatos, S: Peter Weller, Amanda Pays, Ernie Hudson, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Daniel Stern

Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, an underwater station is performing mining of metals at the bottom of the sea. The station is led by Steven Beck, and consists out of seven crew members, including Elizabeth, Dr. Thompson and Jones. One day, the find a sunk ship, Leviathan, with a safe containing some files and vodka. When one crew member, Sixpack, drinks the vodka, he becomes sick and dies, while an unknown creature mutates inside of him. It seems that the sunken ship may have experimented with mutagens. The monster spreads and kills one crew members after another. Beck calls the company to pick them up, but a hurricane is preventing any rescue. Finally, Beck, Elizabeth and Jones manage to flee into the sea and escape to the surface. The monster attacks them, but Beck kills it with a bomb, while a helicopter saves them.

"Leviathan" is a solid amalgamation of such horror films as "Alien" and "The Thing", yet it offers overall too little to deliver anything new, creative or original in the already tried out subgenre of a monster chasing a crew sealed off inside a limited location. Appearing in a year that was marked by underwater Sci-Fi films, most notably "The Abyss", "Leviathan" finds its own way, yet it is too standard and conventional, lacking real highlights that would justify its predictable formula. The characters are one-dimensional and bland, rarely managing to live it up and show some life, humor or wit: one such example is when Steven Beck gets angry at Sixpack and says: "And Sixpack, if you call me Becky one more time I'm going to pop your tops, all six of them." There is also one good scare moment that actually used some sophistication: it is when the camera zooms out only to a shadow of the monster on the wall, whose shape is still unknown to the viewers. More of such moments in the film would have been welcomed. Sadly, it takes too long for the monster to show up, and once it does, it is bound by too fast cuts that are so erratic that the viewers are sometimes confused as to what is going on in a single scene. That is probably because the monster is a puppet operated underneath, and in order to conceal that we never get a full wide shot of it, but just frenzy glimpses of its head or claws, which is disorienting. A simple, normal editing with a clear establishment of where the monster is and where it is going would have been far better. Even the finale is routine and lacks some freshness. Still, the set designs are very good, whereas the film features one of the greatest posters of the 80s, a one that promises more than the film actually delivers.

Grade;+

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Before the Rain

Pred doždot; drama, Macedonia / France / UK, 1994; D: Milčo Mančevski, S: Gregoire Colin, Labina Mitevska, Rade Šerbedžija, Katrin Cartlidge, Jay Villiers, Silvija Stojanovska

Three stories: Kiril is a young Orthodox monk who holds up his 2-year vow of silence in a Macedonian monastery. One night, he finds an Albanian girl, Zamira, hiding in his bed because a Macedonian militia is accusing her of murder and wants to kill her. Kiril helps her hide in the monastery. When older monks find this out, they expel him from the monastery. Kiril and Zamira flee and fall in love, but they are caught by her grandfather. When she wants to run away with Kiril, her brother shoots her... London. A Macedonian war photographer, Alexander, gives his mistress, Anne, an ultimatum. She is pregnant, but chooses to stay with her husband, so Alexander leaves. However, in a restaurant, a man from the Balkans causes a shooting spree and kills Anne's husband... Back in Macedonia after 16 years, Alexander meets his old love again, Albanian woman Hana. He saves her daughter, Zamira, from captivity of an angry mob, but they shoot him in revenge.

Milcho Manchevski scored it big time with his feature length debut film that was critically recognized and awarded with several prizes, and it is a matter of a quality, unassuming little film that reflects upon ethnic conflict and rule of violence in the Balkans, though it is not without its flaws since such a topic is sometimes presented in heavy handed, banal ways. Balkan primitivism was never truly cinematic, which is problematic even in "Before the Rain", yet Manchevski managed to still deliver a worthy and touching film about intellectuals and gentle souls trapped and hindered by a backward society, using a similar episodic three-part structure like "Pulp Fiction" that same year, where one story completes the other and it all adds up in the end. Out of three stories, the first one is great, yet the other two are melodramatic and too standard to truly rise to the occasion.

The first segment seems to draw its inspiration from wonderfully aesthetic landscapes of the Macedonian monastery on the Ohrid lake, which truly delivered a few great shots, yet the story is also intriguing as it symbolically speaks about the Macedonian "Romeo and Juliet" concept in which a Macedonian falls in love and protects an Albanian girl, who escapes from the extremists from the other nation only to fall victim to the extremists from her own nation. Gregoire Colin stands out the most in that segment as the good-hearted Kiril who follows a wow of silence, while a few comical moments all add up (in one scene, some kids are holding two sticks on the shells of two turtles, imagining they are fighting and calling them "Ninja Turtles"). The second and the third story seem like intruders, though, showing the Balkan mentality more the way the West wants to see it than the way it truly is, with several pretentious ideas (it seems "normal" for the Western viewers that a Balkan guy would suddenly start a shooting spree in a London restaurant just because he has an argument with a waiter, it seems) and explicit details (a man gunning down a cat on the roof; a close up of a sheep giving birth...) which reduce the subtle approach from the opening act. Rade Serbedzija is fantastic in the third story, though, charismatically portraying an intellectual who somehow managed to emerge from such a backward area, escape from it and still deciding to go back and change it towards better.

Grade;++

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bound for Glory

Bound for Glory; drama, USA, 1976; D: Hal Ashby, S: David Carradine, Ronny Cox, Melinda Dillon, Gail Strickland, John Lehne, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Randy Quaid

Texas during the Great Depression. Woody Guthrie does not know what to do with his life: he cannot find a job as a sign painter and thus feels ashamed that he cannot support his wife Mary and kids. Hearing rumors that there is no unemployment in California, he one day randomly starts his journey westwards by secretly sneaking with other stowaways  in train wagons. Finally in California, he witnesses how immigrants live in slums, only rarely getting poorly paid jobs in plantations. He also starts an affair with a rich woman, Pauline. Woody meets activist and singer Ozark, who tries to organize a strike and form a syndicate in order for the workers to get a decent pay. Ozark helps him find a job in a radio show, where Woody proves to be a gifted musician. Woody brings his wife and kids to California, but they argue and she leaves him due to his activism. When the radio forbids him to sing music about poverty and inequality, Woody resigns and leaves the state.

If there is a spiritual forerunner to Hal Ashby's biopic about Woody Gutherie, then it is Ford's great classic "The Grapes of Wrath", since both depict the grim events of the Great Depression in America and characters migrating westwards to California in order to find a job, thereby implicitly pleading for a better, fair system, for social equality. More so in "Bound for Glory", even: the hero is basically a socialist musician, but a one that became a socialist not by his own will, but simply by living in such hardship and poverty. Ashby once again manages to craft a quality, quiet film with an emotional understanding and sympathy for his characters (Woody cheated on his wife when he had a chance, yet it is difficult to completely shun him when a random girl says she "doesn't mind doing it" after hearing him play the guitar, upon which he says: "This town ain't dead yet!"), unobtrusively building the story, whereas it is interesting to spot the early use of steadicam in a couple of scenes, albeit scarce one (one is the camera following Woody through the slum, as dozens of people walks pass him as he approaches Randy Quaid's character), as well as a few impressive shots (the wide shot of a giant dust cloud approaching the Texas town, for instance, as Woody runs through the cloud to his home). Unfortunately, for a running time of over two and a half hours, "Bound for Glory" simply exhausts itself in far too much empty walk or repetitive scenes, especially if the viewers are not such fans of folk music (which is played by the protagonist abundantly). This is exacerbated by several episodic scenes which all add to the film's episodic tone (in Texas, one man randomly approaches Woody on the porch and says: "I don't know if you know it, but you are watching at an insane man!"). A decent 'social issue' film, yet a one that feels sadly standard, lifeless and conventional at times.

Grade;++

Friday, June 30, 2017

Baby Driver

Baby Driver; action / crime / thriller / comedy, USA / UK, 2017; D: Edgar Wright, S: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez
Baby is a young guy whose job is to be a super-fast getaway driver as soon as bank robbers enter his car, in order to evade the police chase. He works for the mysterious gangster Doc in order to repay his debts, and the team members are constantly changing for each new robbery. Baby survived a car crash which left his parents dead, but left him with a tinnitus in his ear, so he always wears headphone to listen to music to help him forget the noise. After his last job, Baby wants to start a new, normal life and asks a waitress, Debora, out for a date. However, Doc orders him to return to the world of crime again. A robbery goes wrong and two get killed. Baby thus kills one gangster, "Buddy" and tries to escape with Debora, but is arrested by the police.

In a decade when many lost all hope in the future of film, which many feared found itself on the rocks due to constant, routine sequels, prequels or remakes, director Edgar Wright struck the screen like a lightning bolt: his film "Baby Driver" is an untrammelled, dazzling and refreshing piece of filmmaking with style that grips the viewers and never let's go. Wright crafts the storyline with so many twists of cliches and surprises that you never know what might happen next: one moment a gangster character poses such a threat that the tension is electrifying, and the next a daft, innocent joke shows up and causes a big laugh. Unlike many films that are going to unravel according to the A-B-C-D scheme, "Baby Driver" unravels around his own A-Z-H-R-X-B scheme, and such an unpredictability gives it spark and vitality. The way one of the villains, "Bats", gets eliminated, for instance, is so creative it is simply pure genius and you never could have seen it coming.

One must also recognize Wright for his genius dialogues, which are abundant ("He puts the "Asian" into "Home Invasion"!"; a gangster has a heart sign next to his tattoo of the word "Hat" to cover up the "e" at the end; after "Bats" constantly tries to intimidate everyone with his erratic behavior, "Darling" finally tells him: "You think you're the last word in crazy? Well you're not!"). The film creates excellent characters and then let's them clash with each other, whereas a very good support is given in the sympathetic protagonist Baby (Ansel Elgort) who is an untypical, peculiar guy, but with his heart on the right spot: he just wants to get out of this criminal world and lead a normal, everyday life so that he can drive cars. The film is so playful that even some gun shots are synchronized in tune to beats from a song. Naturally, despite all this, the story is still a sly morality play, in the end showing how the life of crime may be tempting and easy at first, but that it ultimately leads to huge consequences. Wright previously directed small, independent films, and it is so refreshing to see that he managed to direct a big budget film and still stay faithful to his cheerful, humorous identity. Super-fast action films are a dime a dozen - but action films with sheer ingenuity, intelligence, wit and inspiration are still very rare. This is one of them.

Grade;+++

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Passion Play

Passion Play; drama, USA, 2010; D: Mitch Glazer, S: Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray, Rhys Ifans, Kelly Lynch

Nate is a musician who is simply on a bad streak: not only does his boss withhold money for his gigs regularly, not only does he owe money to gangster Happy Shannon, but on top of all he gets kidnapped by a thug who wants to shoot him inn the middle of the desert. Nate is saved by some Indians and he arrives by foot to a circus that features freaks. Nate is fascinated by a 20-year old girl, Lily, who has angel-like wings growing out of her back. He runs away with her and plans to sell her to Shannon to repay his debts. When Lily finds that out, she leaves him. Nate feels remorse and realises he loves Lily. Nate storms into one performance by Shannon, escapes with Lily to the roof of the building - and they jump and fly off into the sky together.

"Passion Play" is a bizarre, almost surreal allegory on outsiders who are regarded as freaks by people around them and who thus feel isolated and misunderstood, and by having the protagonist Lily (Megan Fox) be a girl who has angelic-like wings growing out of her back really seems like one of those outlandish metaphors from scripts by Charles Kaufman, including, of course, religious implications which are interwoven with a theme about remorse and redemption by the main hero, Nate (very good Mickey Rourke). Unfortunately, the film suffers from a too long running time and too much empty walk, featuring several sequences where nothing is going on and where the storyline just keeps going on artificially. This could have had potentials as a short film, but it collapses in the overstretched feature length format. If the interesting, symbolic ending is excluded, "Passion Play" has basically only two good scenes: one is when Nate implores Lily to return back to him, saying: "We belong together", upon which comedian Bill Murray cannot resist but to reply with his superior wit: "Now he is even talking in song titles"; and the other is the almost poetic moment when Nate and Lily are making love in bed, her wings covering him, and then a feather drops to the floor. Unfortunately, except for that, the film simply lacks highlights. It is easily watchable, but definitely needed more inspiration that would let these characters do so much more in the storyline.

Grade;+

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rambo

Rambo / First Blood; action / drama, USA, 1982; D: Ted Kotcheff, S: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna, Bill McKinney, Jack Starrett, Michael Talbott, David Caruso

John Rambo, a retired Vietnam war veteran, arrives at a hut to visit his old war colleague, but finds out he died from cancer. Wandering aimlessly, Rambo arrives at a small city, but the local Sheriff, Will, escorts him out before he can even step foot in the place. When Rambo heads back to the city, Will arrests him. The police officers are brutal, and they bully Rambo until he snaps, beats them up and escapes to the mountain. Will assembles a team to kill him, but Rambo kills many of his officers in the forest, instead. Escalating more and more, the situation reaches a critical point when Rambo steals a military truck, gets a weapon and starts shooting across the town, killing Will. However, Rambo's former commander, Colonel Trautman, persuades him to give himself up to the police.

Even though Sylvester Stallone made over 80 films, he will arguably be remembered for playing only two characters: Rocky and Rambo. Even though it suffers from various problems, inconsistencies and an elision of common sense — the cause for the conflict between Sheriff Will and Rambo is as convincing as the one in "Batman vs. Superman", since in both their trivial misunderstandings could have easily been solved by simply talking to each other as grown ups — "Rambo" still tries to deliver a commentary on the post-war mentality of war veterans, giving a sly message: war veterans only know how to fight, but while that is required from them during war, once peace returns and they are back in their society, they (and their urge to fight) seem misplaced and inappropriate. This is evident near the finale, when Colonel Trautman talks to Rambo and tries to persuade him to finally stop fighting, but he just replies with: "Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off!" This speaks volumes about people who are stuck in one state and are unable to move on. "Rambo" also seems to be a critique of "Dirty Harry" and the "shoot first, ask later" mentality: it shows such tendency in the authoritarian Sheriff Will and his officers, who communicate only through violence and bullying, arguing that this extreme right-wing behavior leads in a dead end, in a state of endless escalation from people who fight back. Despite its somewhat rudimentary approach, "Rambo" advanced into a cult film and became the voice of the 80s, capturing its flair and mood, featuring an exciting score by Jerry Goldsmith, spanning a whole mythology of American "one-man-army" heroes during Reagan's era. Despite its more dramatic (and tragic) look at violence and action, the film was followed by three sequels which abandoned the original vision and embraced violence and action as pure, carefree fun, even though critics didn't approve.

Grade;++

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Circle

Dayereh; drama, Iran / Italy / Switzerland, 2000; D: Jafar Panahi, S: Nargess Mamizadeh, Maryian Parvin Almani, Mojgan Faramarzi, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaee 

Tehran. A child is born in the hospital. The grandmother finds out it is a girl, even though the ultrasound indicated it was suppose to be a boy, and thus runs away from the hospital, fearing what the father will say... On the street, two women were released from jail, but one of them gets arrested for wanting to sell a necklace and flee the city. The other girl, Nargess, buys a bus ticket to a city abroad, but hesitates to enter it... Another woman, Pari, runs away from her home when her two angry brothers storm in. She is pregnant and wants to make an abortion, but she needs a permit from her husband, who in turn was executed. She finds a mother who abandoned her little daughter on the street. Pari enters a car, but the driver turns out to be a police officer. Pari escapes. The police stop a woman who was driving with a man who is not her husband, suspecting she is a prostitute. The man is released while the woman is brought to the prison. In there, all the previous women find themselves in the same cell.

Jafar Panahi is among only a handful of directors whose film starts off seemingly as boring only to by the end grip the viewers to such an extent that they are electrified and do not want it to end without a resolution. In this film, Panahi ripped through the standard conventions of Iran's picture-book cinema in order to show something different, an untypical, dark, realistic feminist film in the form of one giant commentary on the misogyny of the society that already starts in the opening scene with the birth of a baby girl, whose grandmother fears that her own gender already disappointed her father. Even though it is somewhat burdened by the heavy "social issue" use, "The Circle" manages to rise above such a predictable delivery of a message thanks to four stories of women without a protagonist, meandering and switching from one story to another thanks to wonderful elegance and swift editing. Through the actions of the women, Panahi speaks out about the discrimination of women (when Nargess wants to buy a shirt for a man in a store, but doesn't know his size, the clerk says: "You women, you always forget everything!"; when she wants to buy a bus ticket, the clerk warns her that she cannot without the permit of a man or a proof that she is a student; when a woman is arrested for driving in the car with a man to whom she is not married, the police let him go, but arrest her...), assembling thus a cyclic structure of the problem which corresponds to both its title and the ending that returns to the opening story. Panahi is subtle — at times, even too subtle, since some themes can only be hinted at due to the restrictions of the Iranian government (abortion, prostitution...) — yet his honesty and humanity simply come to full expression.

Grade;+++

Friday, June 16, 2017

When Marnie Was There

Omoide no Mani; animated drama, Japan, 2014; D: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, S: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Hana Sugisaki

After Anna Sasaki (12) collapses from an asthma attack, her foster parents send her to spend a few weeks with her aunt in a small town near the coast. Anna suffers from anxiety and feels reluctant to invest any trust into anybody, still resenting her unknown biological parents for abandoning her without a reason. She has recurring dreams of a blond girl, and is surprised when she actually meets her one night in a mansion. The blond girl identifies herself as Marnie, lamenting how she is abused by the maids in the mansion. The two girls spend some time together, but Marnie acts mysterious and suddenly disappears. Anna and another girl, Sayaki, finally hear the whole story from painter Hisako: a long time ago, Marnie was the only child of a rich couple who neglected her. When she grew up, Marnie married and had a daughter. When her husband died, Marnie had to take care of her granddaughter after her daughter died in a car crash. Anna then finally figures that Marnie was her late grandmother.

Another famed anime film by the Ghibli Studio, "When Marnie Was There" is a proportionally well done therapeutic journey which tracks down the source of the heroine Anna's psychological problems, dismantles them and offers some solutions to them. While this is done with enough care, delicacy and measure, the sole result is still somewhat lax, slow and boring at times, since a lot of the features of the storyline were already done in numerous films before. All the scenes are good, yet "Marnie" still lacks highlights: too many scenes revolve only around routine, schematic situations such as picking up tomatoes or going to a festival, while the only great moment where the film rises to the occasion is the plot twist at the end, yet spoiling that would take away that one genius pay-off. It takes simply too long to get to the "juicy" part, the ending, which makes "Marnie" a notch bellow some of Ghibli's previous classics, not managing to rival its golden age from the 80s and 90s, though it is a gentle, honest and sincere little film that has understanding about the troubled orphaned heroine.

Grade;++